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Programs 4 & 5

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Casting is up on SFB's website for these programs, which are:

Program 4: Square Dance, Grosse Fuge, Reflections (Possokhov World Premiere). Opens on March 9.

Program 5: Meistens Mozart, Concerto Grosso, The Four Temperaments, Study In Motion. Opens March 11 (casting for this not up as of 3/5, but will be shortly).

Anyone going?

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Didn't anyone see these programs????

I saw and enjoied them both. I really enjoied Yuri's new peice, "Reflections." I think it is the first thing he correographed for so many dancers and I thought he handled the large group well. The set was interesting as well with reflective surfaces hanging in panels at the back of the stage. I saw it from the balcony (cuz all my money goes to my dd's dance school tuition :) ) so I don't think I got the full effect of the mirrors. I expect it looked even more interesting from the lower tiers.

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I visited for this one, but on assignment for Ballet Review, so can only report briefly.

I'd like to see more of Possokhov's work. It's nice to see how interested he is in classical ballet. (Linking to other recent discussions, Possokhov does what could most accurately be called contemporary ballet. It's ballet, not fusion.)

Probably a weird viewpoint, but I loved the coldness of Grosse Fuge. The subject matter is hot, so it's like fire and ice, and San Francisco keeps it formal, but committed. I really enjoyed Damian Smith in this; he's also both hot and cold at once. (Though she wasn't in it, so is Sarah van Patten). Maffre is another fascinating contradiction of weirdness and beauty.

Gonzalo Garcia is a wonderful, messy dancer. (Yet another seeming contradiction. Who says you can't be both?) LeBlanc did a lovely, gracious job with him in Square Dance. They're lovely together.

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Speaking of financial reasons - the standing room at the back of the orchestra is an excellent deal: $10, the view is fantastic and usually your fellow standing room patrons are fun, too. The only drawback is that you have to stand for the ballets.

I saw four performances over the weekend - sorry I didn't get around to posting sooner.

Of the Possokhov pieces, "Reflections" - on Program 4 - was the most interesting, but only when he was moving around large groups of people. In these passages, it looked like Possokhov was really exploring a movement idea, and where the choreography had its most innovation. The solos were far less successful; as I deduced from interview features in the newspapers, and from reading the program notes, Possokhov is good friends with his fellow principal dancers. Thus the choreography looked like it was just showing off his friends' virtuoso capability (particularly in Pascal Molat's dancing in the fourth movement). There was no real focus within the solos; they seemed to just appear randomly in between structured segments for the corps. A lot of the corps work in Movements I, III and IV very interesting though, so I hope his choreography continues in this direction.

"Study in Motion," the middle piece on Program 5, was dull in contrast; the movement is mostly generic couples dancing without anything that made the piece particularly special or interesting. It went for about 30 minutes, and it was just too long; I didn't find any particularly interesting "study" of motion, just a lot of same-looking motion - even after seeing the ballet twice. Still, though, I think with "Reflections" we see Possokhov developing as a choreographer and I'd like to see more.

"Square Dance" and "Four Temperaments" were the two Balanchine presentations on Programs 4 & 5. "Square Dance" was the Program 4 opener, and it makes me smile everytime I watch it. Gonzalo Garcia did a pretty great job in the lead male role at both performances I saw, particularly in the Sarabande section. His solo tended towards melodramatic, but still he's quite an engaging dancer. Tina LeBlanc was all firey elegance in the lead female role - fantastic light-speed footwork and a very calming demeanor throughout. Vanessa Zahorian turned in an equally valid interpretation, being more bright and sprightly, a little bit more smiley but still hitting the technical challenges perfectly. At a pre-performance lecture on Sunday, corps member Frances Chung spoke at length about the difficulty of dancing "Square Dance" in the corps - which I believe. SHe also comically mentioned that the company was having a pizza party after the performance (the last during this run) to "celebrate the end of 'Square Dance!'" I'm not sure if this mentality affected their performances, though, because at both performances, it took quite a bit of time for the corps to really come alive - they seemed to be neatly and precisely stepping through the ballet. By the end, though, the whole thing still made me smile.

"Four Temperaments" closed Program 5, and it is really such a satisfyingly constructed ballet - it's got wonderful music that Balanchine's choreography completely takes advantage of. The two performances (a matinee and evening) varied between sleepy and spectacular, though. The matinee performances felt like a sleepy afternoon performance; the choreography was there and correct but there seemed to be something lacking over all. The only exception was Lorena Feijoo's marvelous Sanguinic, though lacking in attack, was still the most alive of the afternoon. At the evening performance, it seemed like the A-cast was on: Gonzalo Garcia was wonderful in Melancholic, Sarah van Patten quick and sharp in Sanguinic, Yuri Possokhov strong - though perhaps too melodramatic - in Phlegmatic and Muriel Maffre very appealing in Choleric. ANd the corps was awake in the evening too. I have to admit: I was disappointed walking out of the afternoon performance, but the evening restored my faith in SF Ballet.

Tomasson programmed his "Meistens Mozart" and "Concerto Grosso" to open Program 5; both are light and fluffy ballets that show off dance technique but don't seem to do much otherwise. "Grosso" is a purely technical show-off piece for 5 male dancers. I've inadvertently seen it four times now, and its impressiveness is starting to wear on me, but the efforts of the dancers can't be denied. Nicolas LeBlanc led the afternoon and Pascal Molat the evening.

Not sure entirely what to make of "Grosse Fuge," Program 4's middle piece. It was more interesting the second time around, when I could notice more details. But I don't think the female dancers moved with enough weight or gravity in this piece - their movement was too light, for they just danced like ballet dancers. The piece orginated at Nederlands Dans Theatre, according to the program, and I could help but imagine their women dancing this piece - they'd be using the same technique but just the attack or emphasis in the dancing would be entirely different. So I think this made the ballet lose some of its effect.

Overall, I was quite happy with my visit to San Francisco Ballet. Good performances of "Square Dance" and "The Four Temperaments" satisfied me, and "Reflections" shows great promise for Possokhov.

Programming wise, though? There didn't seem to be enough variety in the programming - all the pieces were abstract ballets that focus specifically on dancing and movement. Especially with the non-Balanchine pieces, they all began to look the same seeing them so close together, and these pieces didn't have enough of a "hook" to make then individually interesting on such a same program. Especially with "Four T's" immediately following "Study in Motion" and immediately showing how a study in motion *should* be done...

[Edited to correct the title for "Gross Fuge" - which I mistakenly wrote as "Meistens Mozart" earlier]

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Yes, Lorena Feijoo and Sergio Terrado really made the Sanguinic variation come alive--great presences, very angular, astringent, with lots of Accocelean pelvic thrust. LF didn't skimp on the great sliding hand gestures during her lateral lifts, which make it look as if she were grandly controlling everything, or at least the rate at which everthing happens. (These hand movements were almost completely absent last week's performance).

Gonzalo Garcia's solo in Square Dance was quite absorbing and wonderful. He and Vanessa Zahorian seemed to be having some differences about the tempo of the third or so section, but she was also quite good, though less the highly articulated whirlwind that Tina LeBlanc was the week before. I had never, before this performance, really realized that each of the three lifts in the somewhere slow movement (I'm never sure of the lay of the land in Square Dance) are each a head higher than the last.

"Reflections" looked startlingly like Symphony in C, sort of nibbled away here and there by post-modernist complications and quotations, such as a fall here (from Seranade?) and awkward movement there, and the mirrors seeming to fall out of Vienna Waltzes; on the whole not displeasing, somehow satisfying.

"Grosse Fuge" always gives me uncontrollable giggles in the part where the men are dragged about by their swim suit waist bands by the women. Poor Beethoven at the Beach!

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Thank you for posting the thoughtful reviews, Quiggin and art076. I especially think it's interesting hearing about Feijoo in Sanguinic. She does seem well suited to it, but I'd personally love to see her in Choleric. She just seems like a very "choleric" dancer at times.

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